HERE ARE MY FAVORITE THINGS: Gifts from Your Heart for Pet Lovers



            Let’s face it, lots of people just don’t need a thing. They have plenty of bottles wine and don’t want more pajamas. Still, we get we buy these things for these folks because we don’t know what else to get for them. Or we buy a gag gift, which ultimately is re-gifted after sitting in a closet for a year. Instead, check out some of my favorite things for pet lovers. In the process, you receive a tax deduction, and animals benefit.


Meals on Wheels and Banfield helps feed senior and their pets

            Meals on Wheels has been helping seniors in need for a very long time. Last year, in conjunction with Banfield, the Pet Hospitals and Banfield Charitable Trust – a program began to feed those seniors’ pets called Season of Suppers. When volunteers deliver meals for the seniors, they also deliver meals for pets.

            “For many elderly Americans, their Pet and their Meals on Wheels volunteer are the only friends that they interact with during the day,” says U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a long-standing champion for senior issues.

            Visit any of the 655 Banfield, the Pet Hospitals locations and make a donation to help support Season of Suppers (if you want, the donation can be in the name of a friend, neighbor or relative). A 2008 calendar is available for a donation of $13 or more. Donations can also be made at

            Learn more about Season of Suppers through Meals on Wheels, or at, or call 800-838-6738.


Too many dogs die of cancer – but you can make a difference

            Another program to help both people and pets is the Morris Animal Foundation’s Cure Canine Cancer Campaign. Truly, the Morris Animal Foundation (which funds researchers studying animal health issues) is seriously determined to cure cancer in dogs in the next 10 to 20 years. Morris Animal Foundation president and CEO Dr. Patricia Olson says, “We’re dreaming big I realize, but that’s how big things happen.”

            The need is indisputable since one in every four dogs dies of cancer. Olson adds she hopes that cutting edge genetic technology makes the dream possible. The Morris Animal Foundation is working in conjunction with many organizations, including the National Cancer Institute. And if veterinary researchers succeed, there’s little doubt human medicine will also benefit. Dr. Richard Gorlick, a pediatric oncologist at the The Montefiore-Einstein Cancer Center in New York City says that’s especially true for kids. “Cancers occurring in kids and dogs are often almost identical,” he says. “If the dogs benefit by new therapies, odds are children will too. For example, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is common in large dogs, and occurs it acts pretty much the same when it occurs in children.”

            Make a donation in a dog’s name, or a person’s name a, or contact the Morris Animal Foundation, 800-243-2345.


            At a loss about what to give your vet for the holidays? Chocolates are wonderful, but who needs the calories? Instead consider listing your veterinarian on the Winn Feline Foundation Veterinary Honor Roll. Your veterinarian will receive a beautiful plaque for the exam room or office, as well as a mention on the Winn website. A donation of $100 or more helps all cats. In 2008, Winn celebrates 40 years of funding research on cat health issues. There likely isn’t a pet cat who hasn’t benefited from Winn. 



            Arguably, the most insidious and complex disease to affect any pet is feline infectious peritonitis, which is quite literally a kitten killer. There is no treatment or cure – and far too many lives are taken. One of those lives was a kitten named Bria, who belonged to Susan Gingrich (Newt’s sister). In 2005, she set up a fund with Winn to raise dollars in a desperate effort to learn more. If you know happen someone who had a kitty die of FIP, a gift to the Bria fund to honor that precious life would truly be special.



            You can honor your vet and specify that the donation is being made to Winn’s Bria Fund, or the Ricky Fund. In 2002, after my cat, Ricky, died of a common and often fatal heart disease (feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM), I created this fund through Winn. There is no effective treatment or cure for HCM. However, through the money raised, so far, researchers have been able to identify genes responsible for the disease in two breeds, the Maine Coon and the Ragdoll. Breeders have begun the process of breeding away from the disease. This is huge progress, but it’s only a beginning.

            To make a donation or to learn more about the Winn Feline Foundation,, or call 856-447-9787.



            Dogs aren’t immune to heart problems of their own. Chronic Valvular Disease is often fatal, killing too many dogs of all kinds, most especially small dogs. The disease is rampant among Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachshunds. Journalist Kim Thornton began the Darcy Fund in 2006 after her beloved Cavalier succumbed. For friends, relatives or neighbors with a Cavalier King Charles, Daschund, or for that matter, any smaller breed – consider a donation from the heart to the American Kennel Club Charitable Trust Darcy Fund. To learn more, and to donate:



            Birds have brains too, and as it turns out mighty intelligent ones. Much of what we know today about parrot smarts was discovered through researcher Irene Pepperberg’s Alex Foundation. Alex was an African grey parrot who stunned the world by what he learned. At the age of 31, Alex died suddenly earlier this year. Pepperberg’s technique for teaching parrots has been used successfully to help autistic children. Pepperberg is continuing her innovative research program at Harvard and Brandeis Universities with Griffin and Arthur, two other young African Grey parrots. Contributions can be mailed to The Alex Foundation, c/o Dr. Irene Pepperberg, Department of Psychology/MS-062, 415 South Street, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454, or give directly at

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services